Elba Students Deliberate on Their Community's Future
Students from Elba High School’s Interact Club participated in a forum led by Robert Turner of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life Friday, March 20, at Elba High School. Together with Caroline Allen, Auburn University Living Democracy student, and Blake Evans, AU graduate assistant, the students gathered in the EHS library to brainstorm about the future of their community.
To start the session, Turner led the group in games to serve as icebreakers and to illustrate the importance of good communication. Listening was the key to the games. Turner told the group, “Whoever listens controls the conversation.” So the stage was set for this group of students to begin listening to each other and sharing their ideas for ways they could serve Elba.
The first area of focus Turner presented was investing in the community. The students were asked to list all the public spaces they could think of in Elba. Once they started naming parks, libraries, and churches, the students quickly agreed that many of the town’s public spaces could be improved. From this conversation, everyone agreed that basketball court improvements and a sidewalk for a busy street were the most important issues. The students discussed reasons why they thought these things should be addressed, and what they could do to create change.
When Turner next proposed the topic of ways to equip the next generation, EHS students came up with an extensive list of qualities a good leader possesses and reasons why those traits are important. Students suggested the best way to support the next generation of Elba youth was to make improvements at Elba High School. The visiting facilitators suggested meetings with school board officials to help address student concerns.
The students were next asked for ways they could help promote healthy living in the community. They suggested having more fitness-focused community events that involve all types of people and encouraging local restaurants to offer healthier options.
To close the forum, a list of action ideas was formulated. Students decided that they would like to take on the tasks of getting a sidewalk on Claxton Street, improving EHS bathrooms, restoring the outdoor basketball court and goals and repainting the lines in the EHS student parking lot.
Students answered surveys about their views of Elba, and the large majority responded positively. These 7th through 12th graders love their town and want to see it grow. Many expressed interest in working with Caroline Allen, who will be living and working in Elba this summer, to help strengthen and their community.